This letter was written by Brice Hilton Jay (1838-1863), of Co. K, 38th Ohio Infantry. Brice enlisted at age 21 as a private in September 1861 and was promoted to Sergeant Major in March 1863. He died on 4 December, 1863, in Chattanooga from wounds received in the Battle of Missionary Ridge fought on 25 November 1863.
Brice was the only son of Moses Jay (1814-1895) and Jane Hilton (1821-1907) of Ottokee, Fulton County, Ohio.
On September 22, 1861, the 38th departed Defiance for Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, Ohio. On October 2, 1862, the regiment crossed the Ohio River and entered camp at Nicholasville, Kentucky. Two weeks later, the organization advanced towards Wild Cat, Kentucky, reaching this destination on October 19. The 38th pursued retreating Confederates through the Kentucky communities of London and Barboursville. The regiment next entered camp at Somerset, Kentucky but conducted numerous expeditions during the winter of 1861-1862, including advancing against enemy forces at Mill Springs, Kentucky. At the Battle of Mill Springs January 19, 1862), Union forces drove Confederate forces from the field, prompting the Southerners to evacuate eastern Kentucky. After this Union victory, the 38th relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, arriving on February 28, 1862. [See Regimental History]
Addressed to Moses Jay, Ottokee, Fulton County, Ohio
October 10, 1861
Dear Parents & Sisters,
Without receiving an answer to my previous letters — two in number, I will now proceed to let you know that I am well and have been ever since I enlisted. I received a letter from you Mother by the hand of Mr. VanFleet and was very glad to hear from you. That honey was very nice indeed. I think that all the boys that you are acquainted with here is well now. However, there is some sickness in camp — diarrhea mostly. I think there is about 10 or 12 of the company that is ailing but only one in the hospital and he is not very bad. Ed & David is very well. David has been washing today. He has just got through. I rather have the advantage of the rest of the boys. I do not have to cook any or stand guard — that is the worst.
This is a very beautiful country around here — I think the nicest I ever saw. Well it pays to go to war just for the sight-seeing. Oh, I just more than feasted my eyes ever since I left Defiance.
We left Camp Dennison in the morning about 8 o’clock and arrived in Cincinnati about 10 o’clock. We had quite a time getting across the [Ohio] River. When we started for Cincinnati, we expected to go up the river, but the order was countermanded and we were sent right south into Kentucky. We had a very pleasant trip down here except two accidents. We left the Ohio River about 4 o’clock and therefore we traveled most of the way in the night. It is 125 miles. The two accidents that I spoke of occurred in the night. The first one was one of our men by the name of L. Falconer. ¹ The train was standing on a bridge about 35 feet above the water and as it was very dark, he could not see but what it was the ground. So he leaped off — down, down into the water. The water was about chin deep so it did not hurt him much. The other was about the same circumstances except he jumped off backward about 45 feet on the solid rock. He lived only about 3 hours. ²
The people are very kind to us here. They sent in 8 or 10 big baskets full of eatables for us today for a treat but I would not give much for such things. There is not many open Sesesh about here now. They keep rather mum. We have much better times here than I expected — plenty to eat and very goof quality. Our bread is sea biscuit but I like it very well. Today we got our plates, cups & spoons & knives & forks. I think we shall get along better now.
I shall send this to Cincinnati by Mr. [Mason] Hatfield ³ tomorrow. He is going up there after his team. I have received no letter from home by mail. I should like very much to know whether you have sent any or not. If not, I should like to have you write often. Give my respects to all the friends I have up in that country. I do not know how long we shall stay here but not long, I hope. Good night from your son & brother, — B. H. Jay
¹ Leonard Falkner was 27 when he enlisted as a corporal in Co. K, 38th Ohio Infantry. He died on 26 November 1862 at Sandersonville, Tennessee.
² Possibly William H. Smith of Co. H, 38th Ohio Infantry, who died on 3 October 1861.
³ Mason Hatfield was 40 years old when he enlisted in Co. K, 38th Ohio Infantry, as a “wagoner.” He died on 19 December 1861 at Somerset, Kentucky.